HP Begins Online Service Offerings with Printers

SAN MATEO (04/20/2000) - Betting that its core competency will pave the way towards a global Internet Eco-system for both business and consumers, Hewlett-Packard Co. yesterday announced its Printing E-Service, a Web-based community of partners and services that will provide "millions of new reasons to hit the print button," according to Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP.

With HP printers as the central "Internet appliance," alliances with FedEx, ImageTag, NewspaperDirect, printCafe, Mimeo.com, Stamps.com, and EncrypTix.com, comprise the initial Printing E-Service.

"The pure product era is over," said Fiorina, who stressed the increasing importance of "services wrapped around [the] products."

Those services, beginning with Internet newspapers, electronic ticketing, auctions, shipping and mailing services, and digital photography, will expand out into a diverse, $100 billion market over the next three years, according to Fiorina.

"But it's not all about printing," said Rich Raimondi, senior vice president and general manager at HP's Services and Solutions.

"Look for many non-printing services to come along, like application providing, service providing, new e-services, retailers, and portal players," said Raimondi.

At a time when most major computer makers like Dell, IBM, and Compaq are making headway into Internet-based service offerings and management tools, industry observers attending Wednesday's HP announcement registered some surprise that HP would begin theirs with a paper-based approach, particularly when HP partner FedEx already has paperless solutions, such as Net Return, for dealing with problems like package re-routing.

"Paper is a generational thing," said Raimondi. "The role of paper is changing and today we're more and more taking paper out of the process, but at the end of the day, most people want that document in their hand, they want that piece of paper."

One analyst believes HP is right by falling back on its legacy of being a leader in the printing market in order to open up future opportunities.

"HP has to find something to differentiate themselves from their competitors," said Sam Albert, an independent industry analyst with Sam Albert and Associates of Scarsdale, New York. "But this solution is only going to be as good as the cooperation of the complementary resources, being their partners."

Hewlett-Packard Co., based in Palo Alto, California, is at www.hp.com.

Dan Neel is an InfoWorld reporter.

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